Equine Partners Open Doors to Unique Experiential Therapy

Equine partners open doors to unique experiential therapy for children and adults living with emotional disabilities

Naples Equestrian Challenge is proud to partner with David Lawrence Center to offer Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy

(Naples, FL – April 8, 2013) Recently, Naples Equestrian Challenge and David Lawrence Center began a pilot program offering equine facilitated psychotherapy to a select group of children in the community from the NCEF Wrap Around Collier, Behavioral Health Network, and the Therapeutic Behavioral Onsite Services programs as well as adults from the Crossroads residential substance abuse treatment program.

Through multi-week sessions, participants work with a Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH) Certified Equine Specialist and a licensed clinical psychotherapist on activities designed to enhance self-awareness and correct negative behaviors, feelings and attitudes.

From the very first session, participants are introduced to the herd at Naples Equestrian Challenge and the experiential therapy begins. A PATH Certified Equine Specialist will introduce each of the horses, describe their personalities and show the program participants how to recognize and respond to the horse’s body language.

For example, if a participant is too abrupt in approaching a horse, the horse may retreat out of fear. The instructor will point out the horses body language such as very wide eyes or ears back to demonstrate how the horse was surprised or afraid. Participants are encouraged to adjust their approach in a way to establish trust with the horse who will be their equine partner in therapy.

Each of the equine facilitated psychotherapy sessions is designed to build on the previous lesson. After establishing trust and boundaries with their horse, participants are encouraged to take leadership and form a partnership with their horse. By the end of the program, they are actively working with both their equine partners and the other participants in the program.

Often times with equine therapy, just being around the horse breaks down emotional barriers that may have hindered a patient’s progress in a more clinical setting. The horse doesn’t judge the participant by the way they look or how they behaved last week. Each horse has its own personality, but responds based on the most simple hierarchy of needs safety (survival), comfort, then play or food.

The horses at Naples Equestrian Challenge are hand-selected therapeutic partners in this equine facilitated psychotherapy program. Prior to joining the herd, each horse goes through an eight-week evaluation period to make sure they are physically healthy and have the right personality to work within the program.

PATH Certified Specialists look for horses that have a genuine curiosity and desire to connect with people. Additionally, they are assessed for qualities such as a shorter flight line – the distance a horse will flee before turning around to reassess the danger and re-engage with the participant. Therapeutic horses must want to be a part of the process, or the session would not be beneficial for the program participants.

Equine facilitated psychotherapy is a team approach to helping participants overcome emotional disabilities. With the support of the equine partner, equine specialist, psychotherapist and a parent or caregiver these lessons of trust and empathy translate back to the patient’s home life and help advance their individual therapeutic progress.

The lessons translate into an understanding of boundaries, limit setting, structure, consistency, self acceptance, reading social cues, and following direction, which is beneficial to a child and family in the home, DLC+NEC-Program-3educational and social setting.

PHOTO of Josh:

Josh was handpicked for the equine program so that he could gain socialization skills and learn empathy. Since participating in the program, Josh has learned how to regulate his emotions, use coping skills, to listen to his parent and to follow directions. Josh’s self esteem has improved greatly and he is making friends and has benefitted from all aspects of the equine facilitated psychotherapy.


Naples Equestrian Challenge, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization with the mission to improve the lives of children and adults with special needs through therapeutic riding and other equine-related programs. For more information on programs or volunteer opportunities, visit www.NaplesEquestrianChallenge.org.

David Lawrence Center is the Southwest Florida-based, not-for-profit leading provider of behavioral health solutions dedicated to inspiring and creating life-changing wellness for every individual. For more information about David Lawrence Center call 239-455-8500 or visit www.DavidLawrenceCenter.org.

Proud partners with:

Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH)

The Naples Children and Education Foundation

United Way of Collier County

Save the Date:

Save the date for the 8th Annual Bootstrap Boogie Barn Dance – Saturday November 9th! Proceeds from the event benefit the vital therapeutic programs offered at Naples Equestrian Challenge. For sponsorship information or to reserve your table, call (239)596-2988.

About Naples Equestrian Challenge

Naples Equestrian Challenge, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization with the mission to improve the lives of children and adults with special needs through therapeutic riding and other equine-related programs. With a dedicated staff and volunteers, Naples Equestrian Challenge provides therapeutic riding programs to over 400 participants per year. Through donations and sponsorships, the organization is able to provide this vital therapy to those who need the service most, regardless of income level. The therapeutic riding programs offered at Naples Equestrian Challenge foster growth and confidence, empowering riders living with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, stroke, autism spectrum disorder,

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